“Now a man of the house of Levi, the priestly tribe, went and took as his wife a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was especially healthy and beautiful, she hid him for three months to protect him from the Egyptians. When she could no longer hide him, she got him a basket made of papyrus reeds and covered it with tar and pitch, making it waterproof. Then she put the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.”
My Lovely (but lately surly) Girl,
I’m writing this letter because I don’t want you to forget what’s happening in our world today: Children are being torn from their parents. I wish I could say that this has never happened ever before in all of history. But this isn’t the first time.
At sixteen years old, your old soul knows a great many things. But, one day 40 or so years from now, you will not remember all these critical things that you know at the moment. You will forget them because that’s what each generation tends to do. We forget. We repeat ourselves. Then, we regret.
During the Nazi regime, countless children were separated from their families. Unfathomable numbers of children were killed or enslaved. Post war, the world was left with thousands of orphaned children. But, you know this. We’ve read the stories. You fell in love with Anne Frank and then, her diary simply ended. We were both devastated. It seemed silly to be so gutted because we already knew the end of the story, but we loved her and foolishly believed our love for her could change the course of time and events.
There’s this heaviness in the world. Our skies grow darker and darker by the hour, and you have been watching the storm gather. We’ve heard the babies crying for their mothers and fathers. We’ve seen the pictures. We’ve written our senators and everyone else we’re told to tell that we demand what's humane. We demand active justice. We’re not even demanding their compassion. But, we expect a modicum of common decency. We just want the right thing to be done without question and immediately.
Last night before lights-out, you sat at the foot our bed and held us hostage with a heap of black and barbed emotions. You wanted answers to why things sucked, and refuted any reminder that you live a charmed, blessed life. You weren’t having it. When you were little, I convinced you to believe in beautiful but absolutely ridiculous things like Santa and fairies. I even told you that I had the monster who lived under your bed mother’s phone number, and that she said I could call her if he ever got out of hand. And, when he did, you watched wide-eyed as I told her that enough was enough and to call her little monster back home. You slept as if covered with angels that night. You didn’t even need your nightlight. Your fears were simple and mostly imagined back then.
I can’t soothe you with fairy tales. No more pretending. Besides, these days I just don’t have that kind of mental energy. So I shrugged and surprised you with the truth, “Life’s hard. It’s really, really hard.” Then, you surprised me because you sighed as if relieved to know that I wasn’t completely oblivious to this sad truth that you’d discovered for yourself.
You couldn’t sleep because you were angry and sad and anxious and wondering if you had any value in this life and if you were going to amount to anything. Was the world going to amount to anything?
Your 16 is so different than mine. My world just wanted us not to smoke, to say no to drugs and not get pregnant. Your world wants you to be a star and a saint who is woke and can save the world. Your world is so complicated and demanding. Unfortunately, those of us in charge aren’t helping much. At your school, you had to take an Enneagram assessment and from those results, pick the path for your future. No matter what the experts say, I’m telling you that’s nuts. When I was in 10th grade, I wanted to grow up and be Madonna. No one expected me to know anything about anything at that age, let alone my life. But that’s not true for your generation. It’s like the whole earth is a teenage giant riddled with acne and angst and having a nervous breakdown.
Nothing is making sense, and every day it seems something unbelievable happens. Someone says an impossibly, ridiculously vicious things that goes virile and settles into our daily lives like a plague. You were sitting on our bed afraid to close your eyes for fear of what would happen next in your life and this crazy, unsafe world.
Long ago before videos and news feeds, a nameless woman wove a waterproof basket for her baby boy and dropped him in the Nile. She couldn’t have imagined that he would live, let alone free a nation. She couldn’t have even imagined that he would be alive the next day. But he lived to see the face of God on a mountaintop. Before InstaStories, a girl named Anne told her whole story never knowing those words would be the last she ever shared. There are endless stories that we know, and yet it seems like we don’t believe them because we keep repeating the same tales.
But maybe your generation will be different. I’m so hopeful for you, Nadia. I’m so hopeful because your generation can’t sleep on lies. You demand to not only know the truth but to be truth. I’m so, so hopeful.
Moses hoped in your generation too when he said, “Today, I have given you the choice between life and death, blessings and curses…Choose life.” And, Anne believed in you when she wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
My daughter, you cannot sleep, because you long to do meaningful things. So do meaningful things. Write a letter. Send a dollar. Hug the un-hugged. Listen to those who need to be heard. Learn all you can about the traumas of this world and how much love it takes to heal a tragedy. But begin by learning to love and to forgive yourself, so you can forgive the reckless of this world.
Rest assured, in time, those kids being terrorized at our borders will someday be adults who need people who know how to love. Truly, this is the gospel.